“Half of all heart attack victims have normal cholesterol levels”
— The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Recently, a 43 year old local doctor who was also a fitness freak and had no history of heart disease, collapsed while jogging on the treadmill and died of a massive heart attack.
Cardiologists say such attacks come without warning and angiograms cannot pick up the blocks that cause them, so there is not much one can do to avert them. Fitness experts say people over 40 should be “practical” and not go overboard with their workout.
These explanations fail to answer one very important question — How could someone who diligently followed expert advice regarding checkups, diet and exercise, succumb to the very disease he worked so hard to avoid? Is it just bad luck or is there a missing piece to this puzzle?
Here are some possible answers.
The “risk factors” that doctors focus on in standard tests, often miss the real causes of heart disease. Undue attention is placed on cholesterol while far more important risk factors are ignored.
A study reported on August 22, 2011 in the journal Atherosclerosis where 82,000 adults in the UK were followed for an average of 8 years concluded that:
*Higher total cholesterol levels were not associated with an increased risk of death due to heart disease.
*Higher total cholesterol levels were actually associated with a reduced risk of death due to stroke.
Researchers in The Fukui Study, Japan, classified 22,971 participants into groups according to their cholesterol levels. They concluded that:
*Those in the 160-169 mg/dl group (both sexes), suffered significantly higher death rates than those in the 240-259 mg/dl category. High blood pressure is not caused by a blood pressure drug deficiency. While doctors consider 95 per cent of high blood pressure cases to be of unknown cause, there are real reasons for high blood pressure. Here are some root causes:
*Exposure to chemicals or heavy metals
*Glycosylation (sugar binding to proteins)
Finding and correcting the underlying cause yields much better long-term results than masking symptoms with drugs.
Time for better predictive tests
Cardiologists must look at other risk factors for coronary artery disease beyond the usual cholesterol, hypertension and family history. They should be checking for:
*High insulin (whether the patient is diabetic or not)
*High C-reactive protein
*High (or low) cortisol
*Low coenzyme Q10
Optimising each of these risk factors can dramatically reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke. This approach goes far beyond just taking pills to suppress cholesterol and blood pressure.
Low-fat diets don’t do much!
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition carried a remarkable overview of studies that have examined saturated fat intake by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC).
One analysis of 50 years of research on the link between saturated fat intake and heart health found no evidence that a low-fat diet prolongs life. Factors other than saturated fat have been shown to contribute to heart disease — such as high glycemic carbohydrates, smoking, obesity, diabetes, high homocysteine, high C-reactive protein, lack of exercise and oxidative stress.
Abstaining from saturated fats has not been shown to lower the incidence of coronary disease or total mortality. On the contrary, fatty acids are essential to all the tissues of the body.
The Harvard Health Professionals Study found that the key to exercise is not length or endurance but intensity. The more intense the exertion, the lower the risk of heart disease. Contrary to popular belief, high intensity exercise is also safer.
The Harvard Alumni Health Study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association came to the following conclusion:
*Those who performed more vigorous exercise had a lower risk of death than those who performed less vigorous exercise.
*Long duration exercise such as cardio, creates over-trained, under-fit, immune-compromised “exerholics” with reduced heart and lung reserve capacity.
A few tips
*Ask your doctor to focus on better predictive tests as described above.
*Isolate true risk factors and correct underlying causes rather than suppressing symptoms with medication.
*Learn to distinguish between good, bad and ugly fats. Eat a diet rich in good fats and *otice the dramatic difference.
*Focus on short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by periods of recovery to build a strong heart and powerful lungs.
Disclaimer: Do not implement the suggestions in this or any other article without the guidance of a skilled healthcare professional).
(The author is the chairman and founder of Uforia, Center for Integrated Medicine.)
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